Here is what we know about thrash titan Anthrax's future plans: There aren't any. Well, none for sure, if you ask Scott Ian, the band's iconically bearded, bluntly outspoken guitarist and only remaining original.
No, the band is not on hiatus or breaking up. It is, indeed, scheduled to perform in Miami this Sunday with fellow metal legends Slayer and Megadeth. Anthrax will probably show up. If that happens, expect the following lineup: Ian on rhythm guitar, almost-original member Charlie Benante on drums, Frank Bello on bass, and Rob Caggiano on lead guitar.
As for the lead vocalist, it'll likely be Joey Belladonna, which wasn't decided all that long ago. Let's just say Anthrax could put together a small army's worth of lead singers, going through three in as many years, from John Bush to Belladonna to Dan Nelson and now back to Belladonna. The last is the longest-lasting Anthrax frontman at a stretch, and this will be his third stint in the band. (Belladonna also served time from 1984 to 1992 and from 2005 to 2007.) Drama with Anthrax happens, and then it gets solved. As far as Ian is concerned, no big deal.
When the group (probably) takes the stage for its opening, special-guest slot on this tour — sponsored appropriately by Jägermeister — it won't resurrect entire classic albums, as tourmates Slayer and Megadeth will do. Rather, it'll play a grab bag of high-speed, aggressive hits from Belladonna-sung slabs such as 1985's Spreading the Disease, 1987's Among the Living, and 1990's Persistence of Time.
And though Anthrax's tenth studio album, its first since 2003, is due out next year, you won't hear any of those tracks. Why? Ian doesn't know what, exactly, will make its way onto that record, but he knows fans want to hear the hits.
So those things have been confirmed. Everything else is up in the air. New Times caught up with Ian by phone just before the tour kickoff to ask him a bunch of questions that, well, he often couldn't answer.
New Times: You're playing with two of your fellow bands in thrash's "Big Four," everyone except Metallica. Is it safe to say the old rivalries among the bands are history?
Scott Ian: I don't know, because Anthrax never had any rivalry with those bands. We were playing with Megadeth and Slayer from the beginning. I mean, don't you think it would be pathetic for grown men at this point to be feeling that way?
The other bands on the tour are playing classic albums straight through, but you're not. Why did you decide to go a different route?
Well, we already did it. We played Among the Living back in 2005, as part of the [first] reunion tour with Joey. We also feel that we'd be better serving our audience this way. We don't have enough time in our set to be able to play that record and then satisfy ourselves and the audience as far as playing songs from the other records. So why not play stuff off all the records and do a greatest-hits kind of thing, which is what we were doing in Europe for all the shows?
Is Joey Belladonna back in the band for the foreseeable future?
I don't know. I think if I've learned anything, it's that whatever happens with the band, I'm just gonna go with it. As far as I'm concerned, if the first guy who was the singer of Anthrax could have still been the singer 29 years later, from July of 1981, that would be awesome. That's just not how shit works sometimes. I hope everything works with Joey and we make this record.
Well, he has definitely signed on for the tour, right? How is the dynamic between all of you guys right now?
What if next week the world explodes? I'm only half-joking! The vibe is great between us. Everything's perfect right now, but I've been through so much crap in my years in this band; you just never know what's going to happen, ever! So why make a public statement about something when you really don't know if you're telling the truth or not?
I know I will be in Dallas for the first show, but I can't really truthfully say if anyone else will be. I mean, of course they will be, but then again, you never know, right? I can only answer for myself.
Is the next album still going to be called Worship Music?
I don't know. I don't know what we're gonna call it or what we're gonna do with it. We're working on the record, and the plan is to put it out next year at some point.
So the theme here is that you're just taking things as they come.
You just make plans. That's what we do. That's what we've always done since day one, and hopefully, you see the plans through. Our plan is to get out there on the road, arrange a bunch of the stuff, work on vocals, and then record more. Hopefully, it will happen that way.
It's been seven years since the release of your last studio album as Anthrax. Why the long delay?
I don't know. I don't see it as a delay. We finished a record, and then we had to figure out what band was now going to refinish that record. Now we feel like we have the band that's gonna finish that.
Making records these days, truthfully, it's kind of overrated, because people don't buy records — they steal them! That's something we think about all the time. You put your blood and your sweat into something for so long, and you take so much time and energy out of your life to create this, and it's almost, like, for what? So people can download one or two songs off iTunes?
But that's what we do — we're an album band, and we're not gonna change that. But it's almost like you don't need an album anymore to continue touring. People want to hear Among the Living, Sound of White Noise; they want to hear the catalogue.
So after the tour, is there any kind of timetable for when you want to get the new record out?
There is no timetable yet. It'll still be done when it's done. It's been this long — why would we even think about rushing anything at this point?